Imagen asks what 2020 has in store for sports broadcasting

By Will Pitt, head of sport, Imagen

2020 looks set to be another huge year for world sport with the Olympic and Paralympic Games, football’s Euro 2020 and the ICC Women’s and Men’s World T20 Championships all taking place, to name but a few.

These events, and others, are likely to cement the way in which sports tournaments are televised and consumed. The Tokyo Olympics in particular may spearhead these developments because of the time zone challenges faced by those consuming Olympic content in Europe and the US.

High profile sports events have always driven technological change in the way in which content is captured, displayed and distributed to audiences, so there is much to look forward to.  As we look ahead to the New Year, here are four key trends to look out for.

Growth of short-form video

As sports broadcasters and brands cater to the growing generational divide in what people want from content, we will see an increase in the creation of short-form video. The advancing sophistication of mobile devices and the ability to quickly and easily post content to an increasing variety of apps has driven a demand for content on the go, particularly from younger sports fans.

Again, a driver of the growth of short-form video in 2020 will be the Olympics in Tokyo where the time difference could prove a problem for international audiences to watch events live. To cater for this, the Games has created its own platform for the provision of short-form video clips meaning audiences will be able to watch snippets of each day’s highlights. This will be convenient for viewers worldwide to keep up with the action.

Combined output and integration

It therefore follows that 2020 will be the year of ‘connected thinking’ as broadcasters begin to realise the value of a holistic approach to their output, rather than having streams distributed in (relative) isolation.

In these environments, where multiple inputs and outputs exist, implementing the right integrated technology will provide a common ground in which the different streams can be brought together and siloes removed. This will allow for a greater degree of streamlined operations within these organisations and allow them to improve their offering to consumers and audiences.

Content owners addressing markets directly

Though it would be contemptuous to suggest that linear distribution models have peaked in value for all sports, the landscape has undeniably shifted. This is in part due to content owners addressing consumers directly via channels such as social media, but also because those same organisations are following the lead of brands such as F1, the NFL and the NBA and considering broadcast distribution models direct to the consumer of their own.

Over the top (OTT) solutions are enabling this and it’s likely that 2020 will see this space develop. Though the direct to consumer model for federations, leagues and clubs might create some competitive tension, it’s fair to say that, for the foreseeable future, more than one consumer model can exist at the same time in each market.

Arguably, niche sports stand to gain more by addressing the consumer directly via OTT solutions, because their events won’t be subject to the priorities and schedules of the linear channels. Plus, they stand to increase revenues by being paid directly by the consumer, although the outlook is far from clear yet. 2020 will see this space develop significantly, that much is certain.

The introduction of 5G

2019 has seen some significant progress regarding the use of 5G, with four million existing subscribers in South Korea alone according to reports,and the deployment of 100,000 base stations in China according to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Significant progress is being made in the US, UK and Australia (particularly with regards ‘MiFi’, which describes indoor hubs,) and 2020 will see this trend progress generally, particularly in first world markets.

There is much talk about how 5G will lead to the enablement of wired and wireless remote production and a more reliable distribution infrastructure to all devices. However, it really comes down to this; as 5G networks are built and consumers subscribe (and they will), the reliability of bandwidth (for B2B and B2C models) will cease to be a consideration because it will be locked down. Put another way, it will become an ‘assumed’ utility in the same way as electricity and water. But, as with other utilities, the infrastructures, such as establishing a network of base stations, take time to build. This is where progress will be made in 2020.

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